AVT: 2.5h (Tot. 90.5h)
ADT: 220 km (Tot. 6,763 km)
“Should we get a Riesling?”
“It needs to be chilled.”
“You need to be chilled.”
I’m reminded just now of an Indigo Girls song (“Hey kind friend / Don’t know when I’ll see you again.”).
Did you know that I’m an Indigo Girls fan?
It’s true. It’s also one of the reasons I’m stuck for an answer when people ask me what kind of music I like. I like Ghost. And Steel Panther. And big band music (Begin the Beguine, baby). And Sarah Harmer. And Indigo Girls. And Megadeth. And Death Cab For Cutie. And Vivaldi. And dark chill. And The War on Drugs. And of course King’s X.
I like music.
But bro country can suck it (unless I’m playing it).
I’m so glad to have been able to spend as much time as I have here over the past few tours. I’ve written before about the opportunities that come from music. Travel is a big part of that. Touring across Canada. Being here now. All of that comes from playing music and I feel very lucky indeed to enjoy these experiences.
Germany is such a beautiful and compelling country. So old. So new. So much history, good and bad. My memories of this place will be warm and varied. Wide open fields and tree-lined hills whooshing past the van windows. The charming, narrow streets of Eisenach. The crush of Hamburg. The sun rising over Fürth. The moon rising over Lippstadt. Ancient buildings with their criss-crossed beams. Party Boy on The Reeperbahn. A man walking a horse along some village street. A Mercedes screaming past us on the Autobahn.
Mostly I’ll remember the people. Our fans. Our friends. Those endless smiling faces encouraging my fledgling Deutsch. The echoes of “Zugabe! Zugabe! Zugabe!” at the end of each show. A lovely couple in Thalmässing that made me late for the second set because they wanted to talk about Canada. A guy in Lederhosen in Gotha. Helena in the park in Oberhausen. Heike petting a donkey. I feel so much affection for them all as we drive yet again through sun and shadows, destined for The Netherlands.
Last night was a wonderful end to a wonderful stay in Deutschland. We were booked at a really cool venue called Klubhaus Ludwigsfelde in Ludwigsfelde, just outside Berlin. How do I describe the place? It reminded me of the room we played in Thalmässing. Just a classy listening room/wine bar/performing arts centre. I don’t know. They set up a nice stage and lights for us. There were tall tables and a dance floor that I’m proud to report was full by the end of the night. We had a good crowd for the show, including, as always, so many of our German friends.
Of course, it wasn’t smooth sailing the whole way. We’ve been plagued by a variety of gear problems on this tour. Last night we lost another amp when we went up for the second set. Everything was fine in the first set and then it just … wouldn’t. No power. Nada. Zip. Zilch. If you’re keeping track at home, that’s two amplifiers and a bass guitar that have pooched on this run. Bizarre.
Funny thing: sometimes those hassles are a blessing in disguise.
The second set last night wound up being one of the best sets we’ve played on the whole tour. We were having some volume issues in the first set. Some things were a bit loud. Other things perhaps not loud enough. It was a tricky space, but we worked as well as we could with the sound tech. When the amp pooched, Sarah had very little choice but to play her acoustic guitar in the second set. It basically forced all of us to pull back on the volume, which I think improved the overall balance. We could hear each other better, and … I don’t know. Maybe it’s a mental thing. The dynamics change with an acoustic guitar.
The band played great. We’re now almost 30 shows into this thing, so we better be gelling by now. Trust is an important thing for a band. We need to trust each other when we play and we do. We know the arrangements. We know the cues. We know how to listen and respond to each other. That kind of connection just takes time and practice. We haven’t been able to practice at all, but playing night after night after night in so many different situations has made the musical connection deep between us.
Another of my enduring memories of Germany will be the sound of crowds singing With Or Without You with us. It was especially powerful last night. We did it toward the end of the show. The floor was packed and the people were with us. It’s so cool every night to see Sarah win them over. In the first set there are always a few toes tapping and heads bobbing. She lures them in slowly, song by song, moment by moment, until they at last surrender to the music. It was beautiful last night and by the end they were on their feet singing with us. A perfect conclusion to another successful run in what is beginning to feel like a second home.
After the show they gave us the rock star treatment again. Photos and autographs and all of that fun stuff. They really know how to make a little travelling band feel good. I don’t mind telling you how tired we were when we showed up to play last night, but we left energized. I did anyway. There’s a difference between being generally tired and being happily tired. I was happily tired when we got back to the hotel. The lads shared another nightcap – the last in Germany this time – and went to bed satisfied.
The schedule has been pretty grueling, kids. Ken made the point last night that I’ve been a bit on the edge for the past few days because we’ve worked 28 out of 31 nights, and even our days off haven’t been down days. It begins to make sense when you look at it that way. The goatee doesn’t lie. I’m not such a young man anymore (I say I’m pushing 50; Ken says he’s pulling 40). Truth be told, we’ve worked our tails off on this tour, and yes, we’ve made a point of nightcaps over the past five weeks, but as I’ve said, you never know which tour will be the last tour, so I’m willing to make that choice. As Bill Maher said, sometimes fun costs you.
The cost has been worth it. Spending this time with Sarah, Ken, and Deni is precious to me. Playing all of these shows is a gift that few musicians get and I’m not going to complain about being a bit tired. That’s the game. When you love something – when you go for something – the
effort is the reward. The aches and pains are the medals. The heavy eyelids are the proof that you’re in it. In the 1950 movie Cyrano de Bergerac (my favourite movie of all time), Cyrano says he wears his adornments on his soul.
This fatigue is my adornment.
Back to The Netherlands tonight – land of giants and frikandel and bicycles and the KLM Viking girls. Another home away from home and a place we love to play. Alles gut.
And so we say danke fur alles to Deutschland. Bis später. Bis zum nächsten mal.
Wir werden dich vermissen.
*Cover photo and Sarah photo by Conny Kiefer.